Don’t think of it as losing a nuance, think of it as gaining an adjective
Gay marriage: the debate wearies me.
It’s all semantics as far as I can see.
Currently, in the dictionary, “marriage” is man/woman. The gender is inherent in the word. The word denotes the male/female heterosexuality of the relationship. “Marriage” just is male/female.
Well, the dictionary lists what words mean. And words mean what we mean when we use them. So for years, people use the word “marriage” to mean the current dictionary definition.
But the definition is changing. When homosexual couples get married, I mean (in the UK currently), form a civil partnership, people will say that they are married. This then means that the word “marriage” is losing its heterosexual nuance.
It’s just like the actor thing. Years ago, you got actors and actresses – and if there was an actor, he’d be male. If it was an actress, she’s be female. Then, they all became actors and the word actor lost its gender-specific nuance.
But perhaps we shouldn’t worry about lost nuances?
Immediately I am thrown into the middle of Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty Four” again and the slippery slope of Newspeak. As Syme puts it:
“In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.”
The thoughtcrime that society is trying to eradicate is the thought that gay marriage is not equal to marriage. Or should I say heterosexual marriage. By denoting both relationships as “marriage” then the gender nuance is lost, “rubbed out and forgotten”.
But, when actresses became actors, and casting directors were looking for someone to fill a part, they would then be looking for however many male actors and however many female actors… so the internal nuance inherent in the word was turned into an external adjective, so that the nuance, if needed, could still be expressed in words.
So, if gay marriage becomes marriage, marriage as in today’s dictionary becomes heterosexual marriage. Until both become marriage – when, when the majority of people use the word “marriage”, they are not being gender specific with the utterance.
But, will the use of gender-specific adjectives be thoughtcrime, I wonder…?